Centralia – 13
Mexico – 10
In the game of gridiron poker, two touchdowns beats a touchdown and a field goal.
That was how the game played out in Centralia’s favor when the now 6-0 Centralia Panthers hosted and beat the Mexico Bulldogs in four quarters of Panther football.
Playing beneath a scimitar moon that eventually cut in Centralia’s favor, Panther Head Coach Jim Newsted’s Panthers gave Head Coach Steve Haag’s Bulldogs a lesson in perseverance.
Touchdowns by Beau Gordon and Jake Freidel earned Centralia their win and provide momentum for next week’s Clarence Cannon Conference road game against CCC rival South Shelby.
Gordon’s up the middle “green-zone,” Newsted-ese for the Red Zone, touchdown in the bottom of the third with a minute left tied the game after two quarters of Mexico’s 7-0 dominance.
With five minutes and change left in the game, when the opportunity presented itself, Haag ordered a field goal to regain the lead. “The great South Shelby Coach, Ken O’Laughlin, who I coached under always told me, ‘Don’t chase points,'” Haag said afterward. “With about five minutes left I thought if we could get a decent kickoff… then churn out some yards, two or three at a time, we could probably get close to running out the clock and maybe get a stop. We didn’t chase points, we kicked it and gave our defense an opportunity to win it. Looking back I guess it wasn’t the right decision.”
It was, as he earlier predicted, “football in a phone booth.”
“Number 41, Hunter went out and they brought up Feidel and Gordon and said, ‘hey here are the two plays, can you stop them? If you don’t stop them we’ll keep running them.’ They did and they scored.”
That score came with 1:06 left in the game when Jake Fridel faked put the middle an swung east behind a screen of Centralia lineman for a six-yard touchdown run to make it 13-10 Centralia.
“My lineman, I’ve got to give it to them,” Freidel said afterward, when asked how he found the winning hole in Mexico’s defense. “The made some great blocks and opened up a huge hole for me, it was easy. You could have put a semi through that hole. I just ran through, kept my shoulders down and dove for it… On that play Alex Arends did a great job, I followed him right in. Coach Newsted told me, just find Alex, follow him, he’ll open it up for me. He did a great job, Wesley did a great job, Trevor Bodine did a great job. Everyone, Hunter King, Sam Lynn, I’m so proud of my guys, the line really opened it up for us tonight and helped us get this win.”
He said Mexico’s defensive athleticism stood out compared to previous teams this season.
“They had some athletes, a lot of athletes, but we just kept pounding the ball on them. They got a little undisciplined toward the end and we capitalized on that.”
Halftime, when the Panthers entered the locker room, down, 7-0 while Mary Kate Bennett was being crowned Homecoming Queen, may have been the turning point.
“That’s when I told the kids… We’ve been down, we moved the ball three or four times and we just shot ourselves in the foot,” Newsted said when asked what he told his players. “They didn’t stop us, we stopped ourselves… We just weren’t finishing. I told them to play without doubt, go out there and finish and that is what they did. It’s really cool when they find the fortitude to go out and do what you tell them to do during halftime.”
He said they had to overcome a fumbled snap and some penalties in the Green Zone to do that. Newsted the message to the players was to finish the drives. “We have to finish our drives and they got it, they did.”
Newsted and Haag discussed Centralia’s two scorers Gordon and Freidel.
“No he was the backup quarterback,” he said when asked if during the August football camp if he envisioned Gordon scoring up the middle against Mexico. “Luke Hunter was banged up and a no-go for the second half and I said, “Well Beau, your number’s up…”
For the rest of the story, see next week’s edition of the Centralia Fireside Guard.